We want good health for ourselves and those we love. We want to always have enough money to pay the bills with some left over. We want our relationships, especially with family members, to bring us joy and satisfaction. We want to be successful in our work. And we want our neighborhood, our city, our country and our world to be a safe place to live. And when we pray about something, we want God to answer. Sooner than later.
Does that pretty well capture what we want?
I’ll be honest. I don’t want to walk by faith. I don’t. A few days ago, I wrote a post on this site about seeking and trusting God. And really, that’s what this blog has been about for the past seven years. But if I’m honest, I have to admit I don’t really want to be in a position to have to trust God.
I want all of my needs met today, not tomorrow. I don’t even want to know how things will work out in the future, because that implies they’re not worked out today. And that makes me uncomfortable. And I don’t want to be uncomfortable. I know you don’t either.
That’s just not reality though. It’s not the way life works. It’s not the way God works.
James 1:2-4 says:
Dear brothers and sisters,when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
James is cluing us in to how life really works. And it’s contrary to the way we want it to work. It’s contrary to the way the world system tells us it should work. It’s even contrary to the way some Christians tell us life should work. We’re told that if we just have enough faith then we’ll have all the money we want and we’ll be healed of every sickness.
That’s not true though. My good friend died from colon cancer last year. He had great faith.
James doesn’t say “if” troubles come our way, he says “when” they do, we’re to consider it an opportunity for great joy. Yeah, I wish it didn’t work that way either, but it does.
We’re to consider troubles to be joy because we know that when our faith is tested, our endurance grows. When our endurance is fully developed, we enter into a new dimension of relationship with God where we discover He’s all we need, that in Him, we lack nothing.
When we pray for “breakthroughs”, I think what we’re really praying for is a quick way out of our troubles. At least that’s what I’m doing. It sounds something like this: “Oh God, please help me! I need a breakthrough today!” We want an end to the suffering today, don’t we? Have you ever prayed for a breakthrough to come in six months? Me either.
Maybe the better prayer is not for a breakthrough, but a go-through: Oh God, give me the wisdom and strength to go through these troubles. Increase my faith. Help my endurance grow. Help me see I need You more than I need comfortable and pleasant circumstances.”
Is there a certain person He wants you to marry? Is there a specific job He wants you to have? Does He have the perfect house picked out for you? Does it matter to Him if you live in Florida instead of Ohio? Should you just get a job now or go to graduate school?
We really want to know the answer to questions like these. We don’t want to make a mistake that will effect the rest of our lives. So we want God to just tell us what to do.
But have you noticed He’s usually not in a great hurry to tell us? We ask God to reveal His will to us and then we wait…and wait…and wait. We might wait for weeks, months or even years. Maybe you’re in one of the seasons of waiting right now. You desperately want to know what to do, but the waiting continues.
So now what are you supposed to do?
I think it’ll help to peak behind the curtain and understand what God wants even more than simply telling us what to do.
In Mark 6, Jesus has returned to His home town. On the Sabbath, He goes to the synagogue and begins to teach. Mark tells us that “many who heard him were amazed.” So far so good.
Then they asked, “Where did He get all this wisdom and the power to perform such miracles?”
After they asked where He got His wisdom and power, it says:
Then they scoffed, “He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon. And His sisters live right here among us.”
Somehow, their amazement turned to questioning, which turned to scoffing. But it doesn’t end there. Mark tells us: “They were deeply offended and refused to believe in Him.”
Mark tells us that because of their unbelief, Jesus “couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place His hands on a few sick people and heal them. And He was amazed at their unbelief.”
Things really went downhill quickly, didn’t they? Amazement turned to questioning which turned to scoffing which turned to being offended which turned to refusing to believe.
I get it though. I’ve been there. I’ve behaved like that. When God didn’t come through for me the way I wanted Him to or when I wanted Him to, I found it easy to question Him. And then to privately scoff and become offended. I doubted His goodness and faithfulness. I became angry and discouraged. And then I refused to believe.
You’ve no doubt already noticed that God isn’t in a hurry to answer all of your questions and just to make your life more comfortable.
So why not? Why doesn’t God just tell us what He wants us to do? Why doesn’t He make things easier? And quicker?
I believe the answer is found in Hebrews 11:6. It’s my favorite verse in the Bible.
And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.
What does God want you to do?
He wants you to trust Him and seek Him. Not just for an answer to prayer or for something you want from Him. He wants you to seek Him to know Him better, because you love Him.
I know how hard it is to wait and trust. I’m in one of those seasons myself right now. If you are too, let’s not waste the opportunity we have to seek and trust God and to wait patiently for Him to reveal His next steps for us. Let’s not forget this good news:
Since I know many of you read these posts by email, you probably haven’t been to my actual blog site in awhile. If you are on the site right now, you’ll see that the sub-title to this blog is, “A continuing journey…”
And that’s what believing God is for me. A continuing journey. Some days I do better than others. Some hours I do better than others. Some minutes too. Maybe you find like I do that one minute you feel sure and confident in God’s promises and the next minute you feel like He doesn’t even understand what you’re going through.
What it really boils down to are my thoughts. My thoughts determine my feelings. They dictate how I respond to other people, to God and to life.
When I believe what’s true, I experience peace and joy regardless of what’s happening around me. When I believe what I see around me, I easily become anxious, worried and fearful.
My mind must be in a constant state of renewal. Otherwise, I will always default back to believing what I see, not what God says is true. That’s why there’s no substitute for regularly being in God’s word. In it, He reveals Himself, His purposes and His ways. He shows me what He’s like and what’s important to Him. He encourages me, corrects me and instructs me.
Several years ago, I put together an eBook called, “I Believe God: a 40-day adventure.” It’s meant to be used as a daily devotional to help you focus on what God says is true and enlarge your capacity to believe Him. If you’d like a copy, you can get it by clicking here. It’s available in multiple formats, so it’s easy to read on whatever device you have. The suggested price is 99 cents, but I’ve set it up so you can set your own price. You can even make it free if you want.
In addition to my mind being renewed, the other critical element to believing God is having the encouragement of others. There’s no way to make it alone. And not only do you and I need others, they need us, too. I know there have been times when I’ve been talking with a friend and I hear myself speaking truth. Sometimes hearing my own words reminds me I really believe what I’m saying.
So if you want to believe God in a greater way, let me suggest you grab a friend and go through the 40-day devotional together. Talk, text or email each other daily to encourage and pray for each other. Choose to intentionally believe God together for forty days and see what happens.
In Mark 12, some religious folks have come to Jesus to try and trap Him. These guys didn’t believe there was a resurrection. When you’re dead, that’s it, they said. No afterlife. So they come to Jesus with a question they think will trip him up.
They present this hypothetical situation where a woman gets married, but before she has a child, her husband dies. The law stated that the man’s brother should marry the woman, so the family name could be carried on. So she marries the brother. Well, before a child is born to the second brother, he also dies. And so does the third. And the fourth. And so on until all seven brothers are dead.
These religious leaders then ask Jesus this question: “Whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her.”
With that big set-up, I figure these guys had to be thinking, “Oh boy, we’ve got him now! There’s no way he can talk his way out of this one!”
Jesus replies with these words: “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God.” He then goes on to explain how it is they’re wrong. And then He ends by saying, “You have made a serious error.”
I wonder if Jesus would say something similar to you and me. Like when we’re feeling anxious or worried. Or afraid. Or when we’re feeling angry or bitter or jealous or resentful. Or when we’re feeling discouraged and are losing hope.
Here’s what I do to get myself in trouble…
I see my circumstances. I analyze the situation. I can’t figure out how to fix whatever problem I’m facing. And so I get anxious. Then I usually analyze some more. But I still can’t fix the problem, so the worry and anxiety get stronger. Then fear creeps in. And if I let the process continue, I’ll sometimes end up with a migraine.
I don’t know if you’re like me, but praying doesn’t always help. And I think I know why. My prayers are usually so focused on the circumstances that I don’t allow God room to even get involved. I keep rehearsing the situation with Him over and over.
If I would listen more, I wonder if what I’d hear him say is: “Whoa! Gregg! Slow down a minute. Let me say something. Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know My power. Why don’t you dig into my Word and find out what I’ve already promised you and then believe Me?”
Could that be your mistake, too? Could you be too focused on what you see rather than what God says?
What circumstances are you facing today that are causing you to feel discouraged or worried or overwhelmed or angry?
Now do you know what God says about your circumstances? If not, then maybe your mistake is the same one I often make. We’ve forgotten what God has already revealed in His Word and we’ve forgotten His power.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is 2 Peter 1:3-4, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”
God has (past tense!) given us everything (not just some things) we need for living a godly life. He has also given us great and precious promises that enable us to be more like Him. The religious leaders who came to Jesus had made a serious error because they didn’t know His power or the Scriptures.
You and I don’t have to make the same mistake.
Read on for a free offer…
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One other thought related to marriage…if you feel like you and your spouse have drifted apart and no longer feel connected or if you’re “just stuck” and are having trouble moving forward in your relationship, let me encourage you to take advantage of my marriage coaching process. You can learn more by clicking here.
Have you ever wondered where God was when you needed him?
In some dark moments, I’ve raged at Him, “Where are You, God?! Why won’t You do something?! Can’t You see?!”
It can feel like just when we need God the most…He doesn’t show. We desperately cry out for help…but we’re met with silence. A day stretches to a week which stretches to a month which stretches to a year…and longer. And still we wonder where He is and why He’s not helping us.
Last time, we looked at Joseph and how he ended up in prison for years. For a crime he didn’t commit. And yet there’s never any mention of Joseph becoming angry or depressed. We never see him losing hope and giving up.
So what’s going on? How was Joseph able to persevere through a lengthy prison term without becoming angry at his brothers (for selling him as a slave) or at God?
Genesis 39:21 says, “But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him His faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden.” The last part of verse 23 says, “The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed.”
The same was true of his time as the manager of Potiphar’s house before he was thrown in prison. Genesis 39:2 says, “The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did…”
Let’s stop here for a minute and consider a couple things. First, Joseph was experiencing God in the midst of circumstances he would never have chosen. No one wants to be betrayed by family members. No one wants to be sold as a slave and taken to a foreign land. No one wants to be falsely accused. No one wants to be wrongfully imprisoned.
When we find ourselves in a situation we don’t like, it doesn’t mean God isn’t with us or actively at work. Maybe God is most at work when our circumstances are the least desirable.
Second, success may not always look like we want it to. Joseph was a successful slave. He was a successful prisoner. I don’t want to be a slave or a prisoner. When I’m in hard circumstances, I want God to change them. Right away. And yet God was at work in and through and for Joseph regardless of the circumstances.
Eventually, after years of imprisonment, Joseph is let out because he’s able to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Rather, God reveals to Joseph what the dreams mean and Joseph relays the meanings to Pharaoh. God has warned Pharaoh that a seven-year famine is coming. Pharaoh responds by putting Joseph in charge of the entire nation of Egypt. Joseph makes sure the people stockpile grain so they can survive.
After the plentiful years, the famine hits, not just in Egypt, but in the whole region. Including the land of Canaan where Jacob and his family are living. To make a long story short, Jacob, his family and his descendents are saved because they’re able to buy food from Joseph and eventually move to Egypt to live there.
In Genesis 50:18, Joseph says to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”
During the years as a slave or the years he spent in prison, Joseph couldn’t see what God was up to. Surely, there had to be times he was wondering where God was when he needed Him the most. It was only in hindsight that he could see how God had used his brothers selling him as a slave, Potiphar’s wife falsely accusing him of rape and meeting Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer while in prison to accomplish His greater purposes.
Your current circumstances may not make any sense to you. You may feel like God has forgotten you.
But He hasn’t.
He’s at work where you are, even if you can’t see it or sense His presence. Trust Him. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. He is at work in you, around you and for you.
There’s nothing easy about waiting. Especially when it feels unfair. When the waiting wasn’t brought on by anything you did or didn’t do.
Do you remember the story of Joseph, Jacob’s youngest son? He was Jacob’s favorite son and that made his eleven older brothers jealous. Of course, Joseph didn’t help himself by telling his brothers about the dreams he had about them bowing down to him. Joseph may have lacked diplomacy, but most teenagers do.
When his brothers see an opportunity to get rid of Joseph, they take it. They sell him to some traders on their way to Egypt. Once in Egypt, they sell him to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials. God is with Joseph causing everything he touches to prosper. It’s not long before Potiphar puts everything in his household under Joseph’s leadership.
Meanwhile, his brothers report to their father that Joseph was killed by some kind of wild animal. They even take Joseph’s coat and dip it in some blood, so Jacob will be convinced. Nice guys, his brothers.
Joseph is not only a capable leader, he’s a good looking guy, which catches the attention of Potiphar’s wife. She is constantly after him to sleep with her. And Joseph is constant in his refusals. One day when they’re alone together, she again demands he sleep with her. When he tries to leave, she grabs his cloak, which he leaves behind. She’s had enough of his rejection, so she falsely accuses him of trying to rape her. Potiphar is furious and has Joseph thrown into prison.
And there he languishes. Innocent. Falsely accused. Unfairly imprisoned.
The head of the prison gives Joseph some responsibility and soon everything under his leadership is going well because God is still with him. Still though, Joseph is a slave, in prison, in a country not his own, for something he didn’t do.
After some time has passed, a couple of Pharaoh’s officials end up in prison with Joseph. They each have a dream one night and God reveals the meanings to Joseph. When one of the officials is released from prison, as Joseph had predicted, he returns to his service to Pharaoh. Genesis 40 ends with this sentence, “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.”
Waiting is hard, but isn’t it even harder when you’re waiting and you get a glimmer of hope, when it feels like God is about to change your circumstances, when He’s about to come through…and then nothing happens? You thought your spouse was changing, but then reverts back to former behavior. The interview went so well, but there’s no call back. You were sure the next test would show you were getting better, but it doesn’t.
There’s no mention of Joseph losing hope or becoming bitter, but it had to be a struggle for him. Yes, God was with him, but he was just a regular guy. Like you and me. And like us, he had to choose to believe God, not his circumstances, especially because there wasn’t an immediate change for Joseph. Chapter 41 begins this way, “When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream…”
Joseph has already been in prison for some time. And now two more years pass.
That’s a long time to wait. And not see an end in sight.
Maybe you can relate. You’ve been waiting and hoping and praying. And there’s no end in sight to your waiting.
Next time, we’ll take a look at what was happening that Joseph couldn’t see. We’ll see how God’s unseen hand was at work. For now, know that God sees you. He knows what you’re going through. He knows your pain and your fears. He knows your frustrations and discouragement.
He has not forgotten you. His peace and joy are available regardless of your circumstances, difficult people, unmet needs and unfulfilled dreams.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Recently, I was in Toms River, New Jersey with two of my kids visiting my mom. We walked on the boardwalk, ate pizza at the Sawmill in Seaside Heights and watched my old high school win a football game. I also got to see some friends I grew up with, but hadn’t seen in years. And I was able to show my kids where I grew up in Brick Township.
My daughter, Amy, got to practice her German with my mom who speaks it fluently.
So a week ago at this time, we were getting ready to drive back to Philadelphia for our flight to Charlotte and then our connecting flight to Northwest Arkansas. Things started out smoothly…
We arrived at the airport in plenty of time. We checked-in, went through security and had dinner before our 7:25 p.m. flight. The flight to Charlotte, NC was uneventful. In Charlotte, we had an hour or so before our flight home. At our gate, I ran into a friend who was heading home after a business trip. We boarded on time, took off and were about ninety minutes into our flight when the captain made an announcement.
He said there was heavy fog around the airport and visibility was down to a quarter mile. To land, he said they needed visibility of at least a half mile. At this point, we were probably within twenty or thirty minutes of landing, but he said we were going to head back to Charlotte. When we deplaned in Charlotte, US Airways had agents at the gate calling out names and giving us our updated itineraries.
My friend’s new flight left two days later. Another guy was booked on the same flight only the next night. I wasn’t holding out much hope for what we’d get, but a minute later my name was called. They had re-booked us on Delta for the next morning at 7:15 a.m., which would get us home to Northwest Arkansas before noon. We were given a discounted hotel room and finally got into bed around 1:45 a.m. Our shuttle back to the airport was at 5:00 a.m., so we set our alarms for 4:40.
After a couple hours of sleep, we returned to the airport in Charlotte and boarded our flight to Cincinnati. Everything was again going well. At the start.
Our flight from Cincinnati departed on time and an hour or so later, we were beginning our descent into Northwest Arkansas. And that’s when the captain made his announcement. The fog from the previous night hadn’t lifted yet, so we were unable to land. He said we were going to circle in the area and wait for it to lift.
Those aren't clouds, that's the ground fog covering the airport.
I’m not sure how long we circled, but it was long enough for the captain to make another announcement. He said we were safe, but were beginning to run low on fuel. So we turned to the west and headed toward Tulsa where we would refuel. By the time we landed in Tulsa, refueled and made it back to Northwest Arkansas, the fog had lifted and we landed safely.
When we’re in the midst of a fog, it’s tough to see. Planes can’t land. Drivers can’t see ahead. People can’t even walk. A friend was telling me that his wife had gone out for a walk that Monday morning when the fog was still in place. It was so thick, she had to go back home because she was afraid of bumping into something. My wife, Robyn, could only go 25 mph on her way to pick us up.
How do you respond when you find yourself in the fog?
Whether it’s something minor like a delayed flight or something major like cancer or being laid off from your job, you and I have a choice. We can believe God is still good, loving, faithful and all-powerful and can work in the midst of whatever circumstances we find ourselves in or we can panic, get angry or become discouraged.
God’s vision isn’t limited by the fog you’re in today. He still sees. He still knows what He’s doing. He knows exactly when the fog will lift. And until it does, He will walk you through it. You’re never alone. He never expects you to figure things out on your own.
In Matthew 16, Jesus told His disciples it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem where He’d suffer and be killed, but come back to life on the third day. Peter pulls Jesus aside and reprimands Him for talking like that. Here’s how Jesus replies:
Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
Why did Jesus react so strongly to Peter? Wasn’t Peter just trying to look out for a friend? Get away from me, Satan? Peter is a dangerous trap?
Like Peter, it’s easy for us to view life from merely a human point of view, not from God’s. When we do, we not only lose our peace, but we fail to see the plan God is working out around us. And His plan always takes precedence over our plan.
What if rather than asking God to remove our difficult circumstances (which is always what I want him to do!), you and I chose to trust Him to take us through the fog and accomplish His greater plan in our lives?
In my last post, we looked at Genesis 15 and Abram’s encounter with God. Nothing in Abram’s circumstances would have led him to believe he was going to be the father of nations and that the entire world would be blessed through him. Why? He was old and childless and so was his wife, Sarai. But God is never limited by what’s happening in the past or what’s happening now. And because He is faithful to His promises and already sees the future, we can be confident in Him.
In verse 6, we see…
And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith. (Genesis 15:6)
After Abram believes…
Then the Lord told him, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as your possession.” (Genesis 15:7)
What happens next is fascinating…
But Abram replied, “O Sovereign Lord, how can I be sure that I will actually possess it? (Genesis 15:8)
Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever sensed God answering your prayer or leading you to a promise in His word, but then almost immediately you start to doubt or wonder if it’ll really happen? One minute you’re fully confident God will come through, but in the next moment, like Abram, you’re asking, “Lord, how can I be sure?”
God made a promise to Abram, but the circumstances were stacked against him. He believed…but…but how could he really be sure?
The Hebrew word for “sure” in verse 8 is the word “yada”. It means “to know, to learn to know, to perceive, to know by experience…” In Genesis 4:1, “Now Adamhad sexual relations with his wife…”, the word for sexual relations is “yada.”
So how does God respond to Abram’s question?
The Lord told him, “Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 So Abram presented all these to him and killed them. Then he cut each animal down the middle and laid the halves side by side; he did not, however, cut the birds in half. 11 Some vultures swooped down to eat the carcasses, but Abram chased them away.
12 As the sun was going down, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a terrifying darkness came down over him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years. 14 But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end they will come away with great wealth. 15 (As for you, you will die in peace and be buried at a ripe old age.) 16 After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.”
17 After the sun went down and darkness fell, Abram saw a smoking firepot and a flaming torch pass between the halves of the carcasses. 18 So the Lord made a covenant with Abram that day and said, “I have given this land to your descendants, all the way from the border of Egypt” to the great Euphrates River…
God responds by entering into a covenant with Abram. The smoking firepot and flaming torch represented God as He passed between the animals that had been slaughtered and laid out as sacrifices by Abram. This was how a covenant was confirmed. In essence, the two parties to a covenant would pass between the dead animals and say something like, “May this be done to me if I break this covenant.”
What’s significant is that only God passes between the slain animals. Only God obligates Himself to fulfill the covenant.
God says to Abram in verse 13, “You can be sure…” Abram asked how he could know or be sure (yada) God would come through. We can’t see it in our English translation, but in Hebrew God says to Abram “yada yada.” In God’s reply, the word appears not just once, but twice. It’s like saying, “You can certainly be sure.” Abram wanted to be yada. And God said you can be yada yada.
God doesn’t lie. He doesn’t go back on His promises. He’s faithful and He’s able to come through for you. When God says it, you can be sure. You can be certainly sure. You can be yada yada.
Think about time for a moment. You and I know what happened yesterday. At least we think we do. I have to wonder how often we think we know what happened yesterday or last week or ten years ago, but we actually have the story wrong. So let’s say we sort of know what happened in our lives in the past.
We also know what’s happening now. We know what our needs are. We know the status of our relationships. We know how the current conversation is going. We see the condition of the world, how much money we have in the bank and how healthy, or not, we are. But once again, we don’t have the full or even correct picture.
We think we know how we’re being perceived by others, but often we don’t. If you’re married, how often have you made what seemed to you to be an innocent comment only to have it turn into a full blown argument with your spouse? Misunderstandings happen all the time. We think we know a lot more than we really do.
So we have some limited grasp on the past and on the present. What we don’t know is the future. We have no idea what will happen tomorrow or next week. We have our plans. We have our hopes. We have what we think is going to happen, but we can’t see into the future. It’s pretty much a mystery to us.
That’s never more evident than in Genesis 15 where God speaks to Abram (later he becomes Abraham) in a vision. He tells Abram, “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great.”
In Genesis 12, God had promised to make Abram into a great nation, but some time later, Abram and his wife Sarai (later she becomes Sarah) still have no children. So when God tells Abram to not be afraid and that He will protect and reward him, Abram does what any of us would do. He looks at the past. He looks at the present. And he replies to God with:
“O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son? Since you’ve given me no children, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth. You have given me no descendants of my own, so one of my servants will be my heir.”
I was struck by the words “since” and “so.” Abram considers his past and his present situation and draws a logical conclusion. “Since you’ve given me no children…a servant…will inherit all my wealth…so one of my servants will be my heir.”
I do that all the time. I evaluate my circumstances and draw a wrong conclusion. God may have said one thing, but because I can’t see how it can be true, I believe something different. And that almost always leads to fear, worry or anxiety. Isn’t it interesting that the very first thing God says to Abram is, “Do not be afraid.”
What are you afraid of today? What’s worrying you? What circumstances or situations have you evaluated, analyzed and agonized over and still not figured out how to fix?
Here’s what we, or at least I, fail to remember: God is never limited by what has already happened or what is happening now. He is never limited by anything or anyone. There’s no situation too hard for Him. He sees what He will do tomorrow. And next week. And six months from now.
Then the Lord said to him, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!”
When God makes a promise, He not only has the ability to fulfill it, He already knows exactly how He will do it. He sees it as already done. There truly is no reason for us to worry. No reason to panic. No reason to become discouraged and quit. Like Abram, there’s really just one correct response:
And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.
Have you ever felt confident you were in God’s will and then later wondered if you’d made the right decision?
Have you ever had a strong conviction about something only to later completely change your mind?
Do you sometimes feel strong in your faith and in the next moment feel filled with doubt?
If we’re honest, I think we’ve all been there. I know there are times when I feel totally confident in God’s faithfulness and yet a minute later I’m filled with worry and fear.
So what’s going on in times like those? And what can we do about it?
In Matthew 11, Jesus has just finished giving instructions to his disciples before he sends them out to do ministry. Jesus then went out Himself to teach and preach in the surrounding towns. That’s when John the Baptist, who’s in prison, sends two of his disciples to Jesus with a question.
“Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”
Earlier in the gospel of Matthew, when Jesus came to John to be baptized, John said, “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you, so why are you coming to me?” Clearly, John knew who Jesus was and felt inadequate to even baptize Him. In the gospel of John, he said of Jesus, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”
So what changed? Why is John now wondering if Jesus is the one or if he should keep looking?
Why do you and I start to wonder? Why do you and I start doubt and question God? Why do we doubt His goodness and faithfulness?
I know for me it happens when my circumstances aren’t very good, when difficulties aren’t getting better, when I expected God to work in a certain way and He didn’t.
Maybe John expected to be released from prison. I’m sure he must have prayed about it. It’s easy to become discouraged and begin to doubt when we don’t see God act in the way we’d like or as quickly as we’d like. John recognized Jesus as the Messiah, but maybe he also had expectations that Jesus would be a political or military savior as well. God had shown him that Jesus would take away the sins of the world–maybe John thought that would also mean overthrowing the Roman occupation and letting him out of prison.
So what does Jesus tell John’s disciples?
Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’”
Jesus is revealing Himself to the lowly, to the poor, to the sick, to the sinners and to the humble. He’s restoring their physical health and He’s offering spiritual health to those who believe in Him. His kingdom is advancing among “the least of these.” He’s not setting up an earthly kingdom though. Not yet.
Then Jesus ends with, “God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.”
I feel like Jesus is saying, “John, I know it’s hard right now. I know things haven’t gone like you expected. And yes, I could get you out of this right now if I wanted to, but that’s not why I’ve come. You know why I’ve come, so don’t give up, John. Keep trusting Me. Don’t turn away now. Your reward is coming.”